Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #1

In class on Monday, we began discussion of sustainability by considering the definition of sustainable development offered by the Brundtland Commission (1987) and how it might be revised to take into account its limitations as noted by such authors as Wackernagel and Rees, Ehrenfeld, and Engelman. We went from this …

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland et al. 1987)

… to this …

“Sustainability means living within the Earth’s biocapacity to allow people and nature to flourish while assuring the ability of all future life to flourish.” (MSoE 2016)

There was general agreement that this definition also had limitations, either in interpretability, emphasis, or completeness … as well as its fundamental syntax.

For your first writing prompt, I would like you to critique (in both positive and negative ways) the definition we created. If you believe it needs improvement, then I would like you to offer and justify a revision for consideration by the class. If you believe it is perfect as it is written, then I would like you to justify that position.

Add your critiques, revisions, and justifications as comments to this post. And remember, your posts can be seen by anyone on the Internet. Please put your best face forward in your writing.

11 Comments

  1. Gabe Wexler says:

    The first thing I would reconsider is this definition’s structure. It inherits from the Brundtland definition a strict divide between present and future: flourish now without hindering flourishing later. However, following Ehrenfeld’s parsing, I think the word “flourish” necessitates an elision of this temporal separation. (Importantly, I do find “flourish” the correct word to use here because of its holistic implications for quality of life beyond survival needs.) As used here, the flourishing concept crucially signifies a continuous process; it is not a satisfiable property, but an unending striving for improvement. Captured in one inextricable continuum, flourishing in the future is identical with flourishing in the present. In this light, we can contract the connector “while assuring,” merging the phrases on either side.

    I am glad that we include all [Earthly] life on equal footing in this definition. Since all life is coupled in some complex ways, it would be dangerously narrow-sighted to restrict our attention to humanity. If we were to prioritize human survival over all others, that would still require us to protect a great number of other species. I will, though, avoid the pair “people and nature” as long as we have not discussed where the demarcation between those two things is, and why we must say both to be comprehensive. The phrase “all life” seems equally if not more exhaustive, with no gap in the middle for anything to possibly spill out from, but I am unsure if it is that much better defined for our purposes. Could someone construe that phrase to place an undue level of attention on fetal organisms? An interim alternative along the lines of “the globe’s ecosystems” has the added benefit of incorporating the importance of systems and relations of varying scales.

    The biocapacity language seems somewhat redundant to me. Its purpose is to indicate the bounds of regenerative potential, which are included in Ehrenfeld’s flourishing (at least in its continual nature). We could remove the biocapacity phrase in favor of a mention of regeneration closer to the flourishing part.

    I propose something more like:

    “Sustainability is a guarantee that the Earth’s ecosystems can and will continually strive towards a more communally healthy and fulfilling existence.”

  2. Savannah Thompson says:

    I think the definition we have created suffices, encompassing the most important aspects such as “living within the Earth’s biocapacity” as well as “flourishing”, ensuring that we are not only surviving but maintaining a quality of life. I also concur that all life should be considered. Protecting biodiversity is a fundamental facet of having a healthy ecosystem, and we must consider how to protect habitat in order to be sustainable. However, I think there are a few other elements to consider.
    First, I think we need to establish the context in which we are defining sustainability, and that is long-term sustainability, or sustainability for the future. Perhaps that is what we should be defining, if I should be conceded to say so.
    Something else I believe we need to consider in this definition is how are actions up to this point have called for not only continuing to live within the Earth’s biocapacity, but to ameliorate our affect on the environment thus far.
    And one last small detail: I think “ensuring” rather than “assuring” is more appropriate, articulating a more affirmative action.

  3. Sydney Copeland says:

    I really like the definition we came up with as a class, but I also like the original Brundltand’s definition. While it is true that the Brundtland definition was a little vague and left a lot of open space, it encompasses the idea of what sustainability means when simply put, with little context. Broken down even more simply, sustainability is the ability that something may be maintained so that it operates just as well in its future use as it does in its present use, and in our conversations of it, we are trying to sustain the ecosystems and resources on this planet which allow us to “flourish.” This points to something deeper: that in order to be sustainable, a system cannot merely keep existing, but must not degrade in effectiveness or quality in the meantime. So, sustainability is quite a call for maintenance, and requires an absolute collective effort from every single person. The ‘-ability’ in sustainability potentially refers to a matter of likelihood and probability, that the goal may be achieved but is also entirely possible to miss, and so sustainability is not a guarantee or a finish line, but is something that must constantly be reevaluated and even reestablished. Successful sustainability improves upon the current conditions so that in the face of new hardships in the future, the subject may still sustain.
    With all this in mind, I will alter our class definition (“sustainability means living within the Earth’s biocapacity to allow people and nature to flourish while assuring the ability of all future life to flourish”), while keeping it in the context of our conversation.
    “Sustainability is the constant, collective effort to improve the current systems which life relies on, so that the same systems in the future will be better kept and easier to sustain for all those who depend on them.”
    While my definition is certainly not perfect and leaves some open space just like the rest of them, I think it is important to note that if this version of sustainability was grasped by the masses, that the issues of biocapacity and the environmental footprint would be addressed when looking for ways to improve current systems to make future systems easier.

  4. Lizzy Stears says:

    While our rewritten definition is better rounded than Brundtland’s original, I believe that it still requires adjustment. In the original definition of sustainability, the word choice created an entirely anthropogenic focus and neglected the importance of all other ecosystems and species on earth and their right to be able to meet their needs in the present and future generations. While our adjusted definition expands the scope of active members in sustainability, the word choice weakens the inclusivity we were hoping to provide. The term “nature” is extraordinarily difficult to define and has drastically different meaning to different individuals. It is difficult for one to decide where nature begins and where it ends. Another issue with our wording is the separation of people and “nature”. By separating humans, our definition emphasizes a disconnect between humans and the rest of life on earth, instead of acknowledging their active role as members of “nature”. To solve this problem I suggest the wording be changed to “Sustainablity means living within the Earth’s bio capacity to allow all the Earth’s ecosystems to flourish…”

    Two very positive changes that were made to the Brundtland definition are the use of “flourishing” and the inclusion of the “Earth’s biocapacity”. By including the “Earth’s biocapacity”, the definition has now gained a strict outline in which the current generation can live in order to be sustainable. The previous definition left too much ambiguity on how the current generation could live and consume in order to insure the lives of future life. Because of this vague language, it was nearly impossible to truly define an action as entirely unsustainable or sustainable. This leads to my next point about the use of the word “flourishing”. Possibly the most glaring absence in the original definition was defining the quality of life for the past and future generations on earth. Do we want to simply survive or do we want a certain level of quality of life for the present and future inhabitants of the earth? While the term flourishing may not define exact parameters, it includes a sense of high quality of life as well as a drive for constant improvement. The combination of both “Earth’s biocapacity” and “flourishing” provides the definition with a quality of life and strive for improvement as well as the parameters that must be met when obtaining that quality of life.

  5. Zifeng Wang says:

    In the discussion of the first class of our “sustainability practicum”, we discussed the controversies over Gro Harlem Brundtland’s definition of “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland et al. 1987) In an effort to address the definition’s several limitations like neglecting the intrinsic value of non-human creatures, we proposed our alternative definition of “sustainable development” as “living within the Earth’s biocapacity to allow people and nature to flourish while assuring the ability of all future life to flourish”.

    Personally, I believe that our new definition is quite effective in stressing the significance of nature as an intrinsically valuable being, independent of human demands, and in pointing to the dynamic nature of sustainable development. However, it still has its limitations as a development goal, particularly with regard to its practicality and the moral dilemma it may lead to by giving equal weight to the flourish of “all future life”. I would offer my critique of our new definition in the subsequent parts of this journal and propose my personal opinion on the revisions to make for a more appropriate definition of “sustainable development”.

    Compared to the original definition, I believe that the new definition we came up with has advantages in several aspects. First, by introducing the concept of “biocapacity”, our definition of sustainable development is able to explicitly define what being “sustainable” means, and provides a concrete and quantifiable target for people to work toward. Admittedly, the notion of “biocapacity” itself is in the needs of further improvements and simply “living within the Earth’s biocapacity” does not guarantee the ecological well-being of the Earth and does not account for the equity across different regions (Schaefer et al., 2006). But by adding concreteness to our new definition, I believe, the revision in this part is still a huge improvement compared to the vague original definition as it appears in the Brundtland Commission.

    Second, the concept of “need” used in the original definition suggests a static standard of material well-being and fails to capture the dynamic nature of the concept of “sustainability”. In response, based on Ehrenfeld and Hoffman’s writing, we used the word “flourish” to describe an ideal state in which “a sense of realization is achieved, independent of the immediate material context. (Ehrenfeld & Hoffman, 2013) In my perspective, I believe that this is a good revision to make as the word “flourish” vividly captures a dynamic state of completeness and growth not only for people but also for other creatures in nature like trees and animals. In contrast to “need”, a concept deeply ingrained in the material culture and economic thinking, “flourish” better conveys an emphasis on the ecological well-being of the world.

    The third and the biggest revision we made to the definition was the incorporation of the welfare of “all life” in addition to the need of people. The official definition of “sustainable development”, as acknowledged in the Brundtland Commission, is very human-centered by nature and it is precisely this human-centeredness that made it problematic. (Brundtland et al., 1987) Only focusing on the welfare of people while regarding all other non-human components of nature as resources to serve human needs is economically short-sighted since the welfare of the human society is closely associated with the health of ecosystems. The view is also ethically questionable since the many people believe that all lives in nature have intrinsic values and human beings have a moral responsibility to take care of the well-being of other creatures living on the Earth. Therefore, in our revision we decided to expand the scope of human responsibility to assure not only the flourish of people but also that of all the non-human creatures and ecosystems. Our new definition, by brining up the significance and the non-exploitative values of the nonhuman nature, substitutes the human-centered view in the original definition with a more holistic view that regards nature as part of our community, and calls for a better care of nature outside the human society.

    Despite its superiorities to the original definitions listed above, in my view, the current version of our definition is by no means a perfect one with no need of revision. Although I do think that it is important that we recognize the intrinsic value of all life on the planet and do our best to allow all the creatures to thrive in their own right, “assuring the ability of all future life to flourish” sounds like too idealistic an ambition for human beings and too much duty for the human society. In the context of global climate change, for instance, it becomes nearly impossible for people to maintain the well-being of every species affected, even if we have the will. It is definitely a noble ideal that human and nature should flourish together but when the flourish of human comes in conflict with that of “nature” an egalitarian statement like the definition we currently have will put us into the moral dilemma of deciding whose interests have to be compromised when the flourish of human and “nature” unavoidably come into conflicts as they always did in history. The non-human nature deserve a place in our concept of “sustainable development”, and we should respect the value of other creatures to exist in their own right, but I believe that in the “sustainable development” goal we set for the future, the flourish of our own species should come as a priority. In our development goal we should still make it clear that our moral duty to our own species should come before our duty to the rest of nature.

    Thus, based on my evaluation of the output of our discussion and my reasonings illustrated above, I propose my own definition for “sustainable development” that I think is most appropriate for our society:
    Sustainable development means “Living within the biocapacity of the Earth to allow the present generation of people to flourish and assuring the ability of future generations to flourish, while respecting the rights of other creatures to live and flourish.”

  6. Matthew Cloutier says:

    Full disclosure, I have never liked the term sustainability. There are certainly more than a few reasons, and we touched on some in class like anthropocentrism versus biocentrism. Ehrenfeld and Hoffman also voiced other critiques to which I assent. They describe its connatural emptiness, which can be filled with ethics of conservation just as easily as ethics of laissez-faire [1]: we can go on burning fossils fuels and still maintain humankind; we can go on passing voter ID laws or restricting abortion rights and still raise the same American banner tomorrow, year after year. We can continue this way indefinitely and thus fit the generic definition of sustainability. To be fair, the word has changed a lot in the past few decades. Google analytics show a six-fold increase in annual usage from 1980 to 2008; its prevalence of use, chiefly in the environmental community, allowed ideas that began as connotations in the late-1970s to become well accepted in modern language [2]. The OED now offers this definition: “The property of being environmentally sustainable; the degree to which a process or enterprise is able to be maintained or continued while avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources” [3]. I think the OED’s appropriation would mostly satisfy Gro Brundtland and her contemporaries–but for me it underscores an irrecoverable mistake in their ideology.

    John Holdren’s 2008 article in Science quietly redirected 1980s thinking [4]. To begin with, I would be remiss not to clarify his environmental ethos, as he was a former professor of environmental policy at Harvard and now serves Obama’s Senior Advisor on Science and Technology. In his article, he offered the term “sustainable well-being,” defining it as positive development for the dilemmas of economy, socio-political condition, and environmental condition. There is a good rhetorical reason why Holdren presented his three core categories in that order. Sustainability mostly denotes actions that benefit non-human systems so they may continue to benefit us, which is more or less what we came up with in class last week. So when people hear the term—assuming its mere use hasn’t turned them off already—they think of “being green” or “helping (a standardized interpretation of) the environment.”
    By incorporating “well-being” Holdren conveys a more holistic ideology that 21st-century change-makers are quickly getting on board with [5]. However, Holdren did not go far enough. Sustainability is now too rooted in polarizing environmentalism. So here’s me, wishing away the word entirely with my magic wand that the all-mighty blog gods have so generously endowed to my possession. Praise be to you, followers of an art form journalistically equivalent to reality television. Don’t think about that for too long—just keep reading.

    Okay so here is the gist of what I am saying: sustainability reflects a failed ideology that falls into the same pitfall as the ethics of economic expediency. Its environmentalist implication replaces one pigeonhole with another. If we are to flourish, informed communities need to meditate on the components of their well-being and pursue development that nurtures them. So I offer something like “wellness of place” or “placely well-being.” They’re definitely not as catchy as sustainability; that’s something I will have to work on given this era of Buzzfeed listicles and unabashed journalism on twitter wars. That said, it singles out the holistic approach to development while also recognizing that what might be beneficial for one community may be inconsequential or even detrimental to another. For instance, hydroelectric power might be beneficial for a community with plentiful access to freshwater, but for others could sacrifice a guaranteed supply of clean drinking water [6].

    I hope I haven’t dodged the original question, and I have a sneaking suspicion I did. But nevertheless, no specific lexicon will, on its own, instill a healthy environmental ethic. The pen can still be mightier than the sword. Let’s just start documenting initiatives that forward more than one component of well-being to the detriment of none. Those are what we need to sustain.

    References:
    1. see page 16 in Flourishing
    2. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=sustainability&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=7&share=&direct_url=t4%3B%2Csustainability%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bsustainability%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BSustainability%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BSUSTAINABILITY%3B%2Cc0#t4%3B%2Csustainability%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bsustainability%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BSustainability%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BSUSTAINABILITY%3B%2Cc1
    3. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/299890
    4. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/319/5862/424.full
    5. http://www.npr.org/2014/10/11/355163205/millennials-well-help-the-planet-but-dont-call-us-environmentalists
    6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032108000555

  7. Coleman Ikenberry says:

    To be perfectly correct in terms of what sustainability is, the Bruntland definition “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs” in my opinion, is very accurate. It is not particularly specific and therefore could cause issues with interpretation. I do believe that on a basic level Brundtland is not wrong by saying that sustainability means that future generations (of humans or any living being) will be able to support themselves in the future. Though this definition might be true I think the definition of needs should be defined more carefully. I feel like I need pizza, but is that really true? Do I need pizza or just want pizza? I do need food in order to live but do I need the option of five different dishes when I go to the cafeteria or do I just want these options. Need and want, especially when I can have pretty much anything I want becomes an increasingly blurry line.

    The Flourishing definition is given as “Flourishing is the realization of a sense of completeness, independent of our immediate material context.” This definition seems very idealistic and to be sustainable, unnecessary. Nobody technically needs to be flourishing for sustainability to occur. The only thing that needs to be happening is that everyone has their needs, which includes food, water, and shelter met while staying within the biocapacity of the earth.

    To stay within the biocapacity of the earth that means leaving enough resources for future generations as well as all of the other living organisms on the earth to have their needs met. Because no other organism threatens resources, this definition is directed at humans and implies that it is therefore our job to act responsibly. While I believe the definition that sustainability means that every living being has their needs (food, water, and shelter) met while staying within the biocapacity of the earth, is accurate, I think the definition that we came up with as a class, living within the earth’s biocapacity to allow people and nature to flourish while assuring the ability of all future life to flourish is a worthy and maybe better goal. I am afraid however that with our population as high as it is, that that our class definition is not possible, and perhaps not even the one I gave.

  8. Chelsea Colby says:

    Sustainability is a concept that has evolved in recent years as the world works towards sustainable development goals for the year 2030. Yet people make arguments for the need to do more than just sustain, to do more than just keep up, maintain or prolong. Therefore, in our definition we expand upon the definition of sustainability as laid out by Brundtland to draw in this concept of flourishing, which encompasses equity and thriving. These ideas are important goals to include when envisioning a better future and I do feel that they are necessarily broad and lofty but, as Ehrenfeld and Hoffman did, I too would like to recognize that flourishing can be, and is in many ways intentionally, a vague aim. Though this vagueness leaves room for differences in interpretation I think when crafting a definition for sustainability it is necessary to use a word which, in order to be concise and functional, will inherently have its limitations. Flourishing is the best option as I see it because rather than suggesting that we are endeavoring to maintain the current state of the world as is, flourishing opens up the possibility to include the natural progression of systems as well as improvement upon the current well-being of all living things.

    Our revised definition also removes the anthropocentric element of “future generations” by replacing it with people and nature. Though this is a move towards a more inclusive definition it is dichotomizing removing humans from the natural system. In many ways humans do at times view themselves as separate from the natural system this can have a few different effects. One effect may be that it propels humans towards stewardship believing themselves to be responsible for the destruction of nature and now find themselves morally obligated to protect it. However, more likely than not I see this dichotomy as perpetuating the destruction as humans see themselves separate from, and therefore find it unnecessary to care for nature so I feel that our further clarification of “all future life” is a necessary addition to bring together humans and nature towards this common goal.

    The boundaries of sustainability are in our definition expressed through the inclusion of the Earth’s biocapacity as well as the phrase “all future life”. I feel that this is the most logical way to define the limits of our system as we currently understand them because sustainability as a goal posits that we wish to sustain life on earth until the end of the earth without humans being the ones to bring about that end. This being the goal means that we must work within the system for all future life that will exist on Earth. As I have expressed this definition inherently has its limits yet I feel that it presents a holistic and inclusive view of sustainability.

  9. Lajay Kelly says:

    Trying to define sustainabilty is farfetched. I believe that both opinions above of what sustainability should encompass are very valid, and can be considered in a large number of ways. First of all, I found myself surprised at the fact that I have never really thought about how misinterpreted and misused the word sustainabilty is. I have been aware that organizations greenwash and that many aspects of sustainabilty are often only brought up or addressed when beneficial, but I never thought about how serious the words should be considered when trying to implement sustainabilty into practice and/or the environment. On another note, I do feel that true sustainabilty is not easy to come by; largly in part to the fact that there are so many levels of interconnectedness that must be calculated before you can effectivly achieve levels of sustainability.

    For true sustainabilty to be effectivly achieved, it is important to focus on present term, short term, and long term goals and initiatives that adhere to both the past, present, and future generations to come. Pursuing sustainabilty before proper steps towards sustainabilty have been effectivly thought out in terms of longevity, is detrimental to achieving the end goal of sustainabilty. I call this overshooting sustainabilty. Overshooting for sustainabilty jeopordizes both natural and unnatural systems that may be negativly, and ‘un-environmetally-friendly’ affected by whatever steps are being taken to achieve sustainabilty in certain places and/or systems.

    I believe that no matter what definition is given to the word sustainabilty, sustainability will only be reached with efficient and creative thinking processes. Often many processes or implementations that work best in one place, may or may not work best in other places and situations. With that in mind, sustainabilty cannot be solely defined and should not be; sustainabilty is a definition that should be built upon for I feel we have not even came near to tapping the potential of what sustainabilty should encompass.

  10. Emily Harrington says:

    Sustainable Development, North and South

    Fourteen years after the 1973 publication of Meadows et Al. Limits to Growth, the Brundtland report, “Our Common Future,” proposed a framework for addressing issues of global poverty and injustice in the face of increasingly limited resources. The horizon of development, as it were, was finally within view (though some societies were hastening its approach more quickly than others), thus the approach to development as a remedy for the ills of the global South would have to be adjusted to fit within these horizons.

    According to the 1987 Brundtland Report, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” As an environmentalist, I take issue with the definition of sustainability insomuch as it is couched in an inherently flawed anthropocentric paradigm from which the majority of environmental problems we face today originate. In examining “Our Common Future,” therefore, it is important to acknowledge the anthropocentric lens through which the entire framework was constructed, and through which most policy makers continue to act upon and evaluate it.

    The problem at the heart of the Brundtland definition of “Sustainable Development,” is its recasting of limits – physical thresholds of resource exploitation, land conversion, water use, etc. beyond which ‘business as usual’ cannot continue – as limitations to be overcome and surpassed by technological advancement (see: Green Revolution, nuclear power projects, etc.) in the name of economic development, albeit more ‘sustainable’ than ever before.

    In failing to examine the predominant conception of development and its inherently unsustainable foundations, the Brundtland report addresses only half of the problem. While responsibility for the provision of basic needs and opportunities for economic and social advancement for the world’s poor certainly falls within the purview of the global North, it would be shortsighted to excuse the global North from self reflection simply because it is already ‘developed’.

    Has not the development of the global North fallen victim, at least in some sectors, to the pitfalls of neoclassical economics which even Lord Keynes warned against? Have we not time and time again overestimated, “the importance of the economic problem or sacrifice[ed] to its supposed necessities matters of greater and more permanent significance,” i.e. the natural environment and its inherent beauty and value (qtd in Schumacher 193)? Is not the time to act to turn this around now, when literal billions of people have the opportunity to follow a more metaphysically grounded path to ‘development’ – not only into active and fulfilling economies of craft and innovation and creativity – but into communities where men and women are not simply reduced to statistics and the moralistic values inherent to any policies of economics are not ascribed to the proverbial ‘invisible hand’ and ignored.

    To my thinking, a path to ‘sustainable’ development is a self-reflective one. It charges the global North and the global South alike to reevaluate what it is to be wealthy – to value one’s health and education and connection to place above the accretion of material wealth or the untenable domination of the natural world. Thus, it is not enough to define ‘sustainable development’ as meeting the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future generations to do so. The Brundtland definition, while empirically accurate insomuch as resource availability goes, ignores the global paradigm shift necessary to facilitate this kind of development. By referring only to needs, the Brundtland definition prescribes a sort of unexamined Spartan existence which is simultaneously unappealing and unlikely to be aspired to or adopted by anyone with the opportunity to do better, regardless of the long term impacts.

    In thinking of what this paradigm shift would look like, I thought of earlier schools of political-economic thought, specifically the Physiocrats, a school borne of a primarily agrarian era of society. “The best state for human nature,” John Stuart Mill wrote, “is that in which, while no one is poor, no one desires to be richer, nor has any reason to fear being thrust back, by the efforts of others to push themselves forward.” To me, this conception of a wealthy society rooted in egalitarianism is a much better starting point for sustainable development than the simple ‘meeting of needs’. To Mill’s idea, all I would add is the importance of society’s ability to ‘flourish’, a term proposed by Ehrenfeld and Hoffman, “as a workable metaphor for the bundle of things that make life worth living and produce well-being” (2013).

    Thus, my definition of sustainable development, reached through discussion and the readings and prompts provided at MSoE and back at St. Lawrence is this:
    “Living lightly within Earth’s biocapacity to allow all life to flourish into perpetuity.”
    Of course this definition is idealistic, but I don’t think that means that it isn’t worth talking about, at least for the sake of self-reflection and acknowledgement of my own role in the path to sustainable development – of self and of society.

  11. Kristin Rochelle says:

    The revised definition incorporates the ideas from Ehrenfeld and Hoffman, that humans needs should not only be met but exceeded. Ehrenfeld and Hoffman focused on human flourishing when they wrote “Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability” in 2013 – which the class revised to add “and nature” which is a critical aspect. Thus, I feel the definition made in class is an improvement from Brundtland’s 1987 definition: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” As only having our needs and natures needs met does not translate to satisfied “realization of a sense of completeness” that Ehrenfeld and Hoffman speaks to in regards to flourishing.

    Our definition also encountered what the UN sustainable development goals proposed to meet in 2030 – as we discussed, the UN goals are more anthropocentric, instead of humans and nature progressing together. I feel our definition more clearly developed the lacking definition we were given. This is shown in the part where it states “to allow people and nature to flourish while assuring the ability of all future life to flourish.” I agree with this more biocentric view that incorporates humans into the earth rather than incorporates earth into humanity. Therefore, I would keep the same definition.

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